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  • Footsteps shake the dust from beneath the hard wood steps. Bitten by the perpetual drag of hot and humid followed by frigid and frosty, they scarcely object to an insolent creak.

    Galder enters the shop of alchemy unabashed. A mercilessly crooked old woman mulls around the back of the counter. At the moment, a crate of glowing flasks fills her arms. She advises every muscle group to pay attention.

    "Glow of firefly, lad!"

    Taken by the apparent jape, he stutters, "..for?", while searching for some phrase to discern the state of matter.

    "The glow! Here, and, see here…"

    In a flurry, she sets the box down and yanks open a door directly behind her. She disappears beneath a humorous avalanche of scrolls. Some bound by seals, royal or common, others curled from both ends, burnt or aged. The sound of rustling, like a cockapoo lost in a pile of autumn leaves. A hand shoots out and the woman brings a scroll out to him. Scrawled in impossibly immaculate calligraphy were the words: Glow, Hearth Cap, Carp Scale.

    Galder looks up and again, she defies convention. Peering into the next room, he sees her sliding astride a ladder five shelves up. With a triumphant squeak, she slides down and hands him a book with the image of a mortar and pestle on it. Beside the counter, there had been an assortment of devices on a short table. He goes over to it and sees two small bowls. In the first, some deeply conifer-green fungus caps. In the second, neatly hexagonal diamond scales line the edges. Almost predictably, the woman pounces up from beneath the counter, her left hand balled up into a fist.

    And it glows like she had summoned the Sun. Eyes streaming with excitement, she calmly releases the grip of her fingers over the mortar and the glow falls like voices in the quiet of night. She motions towards the smaller bowls. Galder offers raised eyebrows and eyes the smaller bowls, then the mortar, then her, in quick turns. She nods, never letting her enthusiasm drop.

    He mixes them into the bowl, then reaches for the pestle. She reaches and grabs his wrist as if to say, "One moment."

    When she returns, she has a small wooden mug clasped in her hands. Galder looks inside and a faint smile creeps across his face as he recognizes the scent of wine. Assuming all is well, he begins the process of mixing the ingredients together.

    After a few minutes, a bevy of thoughts cross his mind.

    What is this even for? She can't be dangerous…

    Not a moment later, the mortar mash begins to flare up. A stunning vapor storm envelops the mortar. The sounds of hooves and exchange outside mute as the determination of Galder's heartbeat reaches his ears.

    Then, a sound. Many sounds, but still few sounds. Inorganic, but still organic. In harmony. In incalculable grace.

    Galder launches a spear of astonishment at the old woman, who is quietly seated on the floor sipping her wine, smiling, without a tooth in sight.
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